This report reviews current evidence regarding the relationship between vegetarian eating patterns and cancer risk. Although plant-based diets including vegetarian and vegan diets are generally considered to be cancer protective, very few studies have directly addressed this question. Most large prospective observational studies show that vegetarian diets are at least modestly cancer protective (10%-12% reduction in overall cancer risk) although results for specific cancers are less clear. No long-term randomized clinical trials have been conducted to address this relationship. However, a broad body of evidence links specific plant foods such as fruits and vegetables, plant constituents such as fiber, antioxidants and other phytochemicals, and achieving and maintaining a healthy weight to reduced risk of cancer diagnosis and recurrence. Also, research links the consumption of meat, especially red and processed meats, to increased risk of several types of cancer. Vegetarian and vegan diets increase beneficial plant foods and plant constituents, eliminate the intake of red and processed meat, and aid in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. The direct and indirect evidence taken together suggests that vegetarian diets are a useful strategy for reducing risk of cancer.
Keywords: diet; prevention; vegan.